Shelby American, the classic builder of hyper-powered muscle cars with the bulked-up Mustang styling, took aim at the tuner generation Tuesday with a new compact based on Ford's Focus.
The 2013 Shelby Focus ST is the company's first push back to the four-cylinder "pocket rocket" sector since founder Carroll Shelby turbocharged four-cylinder sedans in the 1980s.
"It's something small with big power," said Shelby American president John Luft as he unveiled the new car at the Detroit auto show.
"You can certainly embarrass a lot of guys at the track" with the souped up Focus, he said.
It was Shelby's first aim at the tuner culture, where drivers modify the looks and power of what have been mostly unambitious small Asian imports, as featured in the hit Fast and Furious movies.
That youth culture came along long after Shelby had established its muscle car name with the 1960s generation of drivers.
"There's a generation that did not grow up with Shelby," said John Luft, president of the Las Vegas-based firm.
"We're giving them a higher platform to work from," said Luft. "An American-built solution.
Shelby does the build-up: the customer buys the base Focus, which will run about $23,000 and it is shipped from Ford to Shelby, where the remake takes place beginning at $14,995.
No more than 500 will be produced each year, Luft said.
The company was launched 50 years ago by iconic driver and builder Carroll Shelby, starting with the Shelby Cobra and advancing through the 1960s on mainly the Mustang platform but also other muscle cars.
Shelby died last year, but the company still prides itself on power: at Detroit it also unveiled the Shelby GT 500 Super Snake Wide Body, based on Ford's GT500 but boosting its 660 horsepower to 850 hp, riding on top of 13 inch rear wheels.
"Carroll's spirit lives on in every one of the cars we sell," said Luft. "We produce the most power of any American production vehicle."
Shelby sells 400-500 cars each year, mostly in North America but increasingly abroad, in the Middle East and Europe especially.